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Microtown & F-Boyz

Recently I saw Stacey Peralta's autobiographical documentary, DogTown and Z-Boys, which chronicles the rise of the extreme skateboarding movement that began in the '70's. Prior to the '70's, skateboarding had been a fad, not unlike the hulahoop. Invented in the 1950's when kids began taking their clay-wheeled roller skates, cutting them apart, and affixing them to boards (or perhaps created instantaneously when Marty McFly broke their scooters to escape a thug named Biff!), skateboarding was the all-American safe sport. Competitions arose from 1950-1965 that featured tall, Arian lads delicately weaving their boards between cones and down gentle slopes.

After 1965, the fad began to die out and people began to forget about it. Sure, there were still a few competitions but they had lost their novelty to the American public. That was until a group of thugs started hanging out at Zeffer's Surf shop, a community landmark situated in the slum of a dead-end Santa Monica suburb known as Dogtown. These thugs were surfers that tried to get good enough to be part of the Zeffer Surf team. When they weren't on the waves, they were 'dryland surfing' with the now-passé, surf-inspired skateboard. Unlike the traditional skateboarders of the '50's and '60's who were the poster children for Hitler youth and were the example of the wealthy status quo, the Z-Boys (as they came to be known) were mixed races, mixed genders, and about as poor as you could be without being in a third-world country. They had nothing to lose, so they pushed the stagnant sport of skateboarding in strange ways that no one had ever intended. They found empty swimming pools, began to ride them, and started inventing aerial tricks, leg plants, and lip grinds that broke all the rules. They banged themselves up and broke body parts, but they did what they loved to do…they did what they had a passion to do. And because of them, the sport of skateboarding was reborn in their image.

Even with all the amazing pioneers that birthed the extreme skating movement, it would have all been for naught if they hadn't found a publication that served as a rallying cry. Skateboarder Magazine was reborn in the '70's and featured all sorts of pictures of these Z-Boys pulling off tricks as well as lucid articles written by one of Zeffer Surf Shop's owners. At the bottom of the barrel (or Big Gulp, in this case), it became the best selling magazine at 7-Elevens across the country because kids who had never thought about the skateboarding movement frequented 7-Elevens and became engrossed by these well-written articles about the possibilities that were out there if they pushed the limits as well.

Eventually, people like Tony Hawk, Buck Lasek, and a myriad of others were inspired to take up their boards and now the extreme sports movement is stronger than it's ever been after 35 years since it's rebirth.

Okay, so what does this have to do with us? If you can't see the parallels between their tale and ours, I'll break it down simply.

Hollywood as it exists now is the status quo that lives by rules that have long since ceased to work. Their infinitely re-told stories have become stagnant, their union problems have become an anathema, and their necessity for more and more money to make even the most basic film taps their remnant of creativity to the core. We represent a new breed, a group of filmmakers that will beg or borrow whatever equipment we require to make our movies. While we learn from Hollywood's mistakes, we will not be limited by the limits they put on themselves!

Hollywood says that narration is tired and passé. We say that narration is the way you can get into a character's head most realistically. We say that without it, we would not have Fight Club, Memento, Rounders, or American Beauty! (i.e. most of the films Hollywood never wanted to have made in the first place!)

Hollywood says that there has to be a huge setback for the protagonist in the third act, which is why they went to the trouble of making matchmaking illegal in Hitch! We say that cookie-cutter storylines are of the Devil and, if followed in all things, would have eradicated works like Garden State, Pulp Fiction, and almost all of the narration films we mentioned before.

Hollywood says you can't make a movie based on a book and keep the book intact without boring your audience. We say that's a load of bull! Lord of the Rings and Fight Club argue perfectly against that concept of pop psychology. We are not so arrogant as to believe that 5,000 years of writing theory should be thrown out the window just because you have a moving form of the book to use!

Hollywood says that you can't make a well-crafted movie based on a video game because video games are "for children." We ask them if they've played a video game since Pong or Pac-Man??? Most of the games that are popular today, from the newest Castlevania to Soul Reaver to God of War, are all written with extremely mature storylines and amazingly complex plots. As such, when we make films of these games, we will tap the intense creativity that was poured into the game by the designers, rather than screwing up brilliant plotlines by dumbing them down for kiddies!

Compared to Hollywood, we're all dirt poor. We have nothing to lose by trying out all the things that they no longer have the guts to try. Let's push the envelope of filmmaking and try things that are "beneath" them. Let's revel in our passion to tell stories and look for ones that no one has told before!

To quote Fight Club, "I say, let us evolve and let the chips fall where they may."

God Bless,

Jeremy Hanke

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